The Reptilian Brain

In less than 24 hours I get on a plane to head back to Africa. I’ve been preparing for this trip since January. I’ve put in the physical labor that should get me to the top of Mt Kilimajaro. I’ve sent the weekly emails to our trekkers. I’ve read the articles and the stories. I’ve been thinking about this journey for over 7 months.

With all I’ve done to prepare for this trip, I thought emotionally I’d be set. After all, I’m headed to my homeland, Africa. This continent is my space, my comfort. Yet this past week my heart and my head are a mess of anxiety.

Let me tell you a story. Stick with me for a minute. Yesterday at the last minute Matt and I decided to take Desta to an adventure park. You’d thought, by her reaction, that we were taking her to the dentist for teeth extraction without any sedation. She was not a willing participant for the first hour of the day.

At the park is a mini incline – 200 steps. My thought was “Great, Desta wanted to do the real incline, this will be perfect practice.” She was not super thrilled about 200 steps. After two times, she was done and whining. As she continued to complain about not having a choice to do anything she wanted (not true but I digress), I said back, “I feel like you ruin every good thing we plan for you.”

That remark stung even me. It just came out of my mouth and I wanted to yank it right back. It was not a proud moment at all. All my own crap, my ick and stuff came bursting out in that sentence. It was not a moment of connection. There was no love in that sentence.

I didn’t know what to do after I said it. So I didn’t say anything at all. The moment passed and we carried on. I took the regret with me for most of the next hour. Why did I say that? Why did I let her complaining cause me to say something I didn’t mean?

As we walked to the low ropes course, Matt said something to me. “Melody, right now her lizard brain – that part that says, ‘danger, get out, you’re in trouble’ – is overriding her healthy brain. She can’t see past the anxiety of the moment to see the joy of the future.”

Later that day we walked alongside Desta as she did the low ropes course. There were many moments on that course that brought panic. HOWEVER, Matt and I stood next to her and encouraged her through each part. As she conquered each part of the course, you could see the pride in her eyes. SHE WAS DOING IT!

As we drove home in the torrential rainstorm, we talked about how fun the day was. Desta felt special and important. My poor choice of words were pushed aside for better memories.

This morning as I looked at the pictures again from yesterday, I was reminded of my journey ahead. Am I allowing my reptile brain to get in the way of my healthy brain? Am I living in the moments of “what if’s” and forgetting that I’m prepared? I have put in the time. I’ve done the work and MOST IMPORTANTLY, I know that while the trip will not going exactly as the itinerary says it will, it will be a good trip. It will be a good climb.

Maybe you’re in a season of unknown or loss. Maybe you are living in the reptilian brain part that says “get out of here quick, you can’t do this.” I’d encourage you to tell your brain that you’ve got this. Try to get out of the present anxiety and say simply, “There is joy ahead.”

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